"A teacher affects eternity, he can never tell where his influence stops." Henry Brooks Adams

Thursday, December 1, 2011

SELL 440 North Broad Street!

As School District of Philadelphia principals got the bad news about further budget cuts today, I could not help think about ways the district could raise money without hurting the students they supposedly exist to serve. If everything is really on the table as far as budget cuts go, it might be time to think radically about how to raise money and cut costs. The school district has many empty parcels of real estate sitting around, but most of them are not in a condition to be sold for market value. However, there is one building and parcel that is worth at least thirteen million dollars that the head honchos could unload if they REALLY meant what they said about caring about children--that parcel is School District Headquarters: 440 North Broad Street. According to the Office of Property Assessment website, the SDP headquarters is valued at 13,000,000.00 dollars and is owned by the school district. Why does this building need to exist anyway? All the people that work there can be dispersed to buildings that the district owns and can't get rid of. The recently abandoned George W. Childs School comes to mind: after all if it was good enough for students to inhabit last year, it should be could enough for adults to work in now. In this age of electronic communication, every central office employee does not need to work in the same building, or even the same neighborhood. Different offices could work in different buildings, superintendents and their staffs could be dispersed throughout the regional offices that already exist. The SRC could take its act on the road and have the meeting in a different school auditorium each time--that would not only bring them closer to the people they supposedly serve, it would enable them to see the conditions of the schools they expect the students to learn in. What could be the possible objections to this plan? Why not get at least thirteen million for the schools? Certainly SDP officials and office staff will not mind sacrificing their nice, air-conditioned, secure building with functioning elevators for less plush digs? After all, if our purpose is to serve and educate the children of Philadelphia, how can the big-wigs object to doing everything possible to save money? If we cannot afford enough staff and supplies for our schools, how can we afford a big, half-empty building that exists largely for show? It is time for officials to put their money where their mouth is, and--if they really care about the children of this city--sell 440 North Broad Street and join the rest of us in the real world of school buildings!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Myth of the 70,000 Empty Seats

When the SRC’s Facilities Master Plan was unveiled last week, there was some surprise, some relief, and some criticism. Many media outlets wondered why so few schools were being closed when there are 70,000 empty seats district-wide. But, let’s take a closer look at the alleged 70,000 seats sitting empty in our public schools. Do this many empty seats truly exist? Many of us who work in buildings with ‘empty seats’ contend that this number is vastly inflated. Kristen Graham, of The Inquirer, recently reported that 10,000 of those empty seats are in ALREADY closed buildings. SO, why include them in the total? Those seats are already out of circulation. Some parent advocates and educators point out that the number of alleged empty seats seems to keep rising rather quickly.

Although the authors of the facilities master plan insist they counted accurately, I can think of several reasons why they might not have: Special Ed Rooms, Science Labs, Computer/Writing Labs. For example, my school (like many others) has a variety of Special Education classrooms. These rooms are for Life Skills Support, Autistic Support, and Multi-Disabilities students and have a legal cap on the amount of students assigned to them. That legal cap is far less than the 20-33 students a regular education classroom can hold—in some special education classes only 6 students may be in the class. If the people tallying up empty seats mistakenly count the rooms used for special ed classes as being able to hold 33 students, they have vastly over-counted “empty’ seats. In our school, we were lucky enough recently to be able to turn two rooms into a science lab. Although that lab can serve all 400 and some kids in the school, those two rooms can no longer be counted as classrooms that can hold 66 more students than we already have. The same holds for the computer and writing labs that some schools have. Most people believe that the Ohio firm hired to tally the empty seats never went through buildings to see actual use. I do not believe they had an accurate picture of how space is utilized in our buildings. They simply used old data to count classrooms, multiplied by students, then took 75% of that number, and came up with a number of “empty seats”.

The ways space is utilized in schools in the twenty-first century is necessarily different that the way space way used when many of these buildings were constructed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. To give our kids the “Twenty-first Century Education” all the edu-crats keep talking about, space is needed for more than just classrooms crammed to the gills with 33 students apiece (just ask some of the over-crowded Northeast schools). Students need libraries, other research spaces, meeting spaces, and laboratories. If we are going to close schools based on some theoretical number of “empty seats”, the powers-that-be should at least do the hard work of walking through every single building to see how space is actually utilized every day.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

We Need More Good Guys and Fewer Test Prep Gurus--Guest Blog by Natalie Hunter--

Fresno County California School Superintendent, Larry Powell, has decided to save his school district by technically retiring and foregoing his $288,000 yearly salary for the remaining three and 1/2 years of his term. The first plan was to be rehired with a $31,000 per year salary, yet Powell has decided to give that to charity. Powell said in an interview on MSNBC TV's 'The Ed Show,' "It's time for us to step up and do something. America has always given. It's a time to do that thing right now."

Powell's approach to education reform appears in stark contrast to that of Philadelphia's superintendent who leaves office with a controversial $905,000 buyout package. Education Week states that the controversial private donors have withdrawn from the buyout, leaving the Philadelphia School district to bear the entire cost. "How much do we need to keep accumulating? There's no reason for me to keep stockpiling money," Fresno's superintendent, Larry Powell, 63, is quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Powell also gave up his $250,000 life insurance policy and says that he will be added to his wife's health care plan. Because of taking early retirement, according to the superintendent, he will receive $28,000 a year less in pension payments for the rest of his life. Larry Powell said that the decision was a serious one that he discussed at length with his wife. Computing that if he lived to be 87, the age of his parents now, he would lose $900,000 in pension benefits, including $200,000 less in earnings for the remainder of his term. Clearly a significant sum of salary, pension and other benefits, Fresno Superintendent Powell decided to sacrifice personal gain for the sake of education in his district.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has applauded Powell for his gift. Duncan issued a statement that said in part, "Larry Powell's leadership is an absolute inspiration. Through a lifetime of dedicated service in education and his generosity, he has made it clear that he is personally and professionally invested in the students, parents, teachers and principals in Fresno. They are very lucky to have him."

Indeed Fresno is very fortunate to have such a leader as Larry Powell. In a time when school districts across the country are struggling to make ends meet and countless teachers, media specialists and other educators are unemployed causing the quality of education to decline, the example of Mr. Powell is like a beacon in the wilderness that is the United States' public educational system, whether we're dealing with traditional or online schools. Individual courage to stand up and make sacrifices for the greater good is just what is needed now, and perhaps others will follow his lead to save our education system. Natalie Hunter

Monday, August 22, 2011

Arlene Has Left The Building!

Well, something many teachers, administrators, parents and others interested in education have been hoping for has happened: Dr. Arlene Ackerman has left her position as Superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools. There are many reasons this has come to pass, and there are many reasons most people I know are relieved (if not thrilled). What mistakes made Ackerman reviled by so many? How can this be avoided by our next leader? The key word here is leader. In my mind, and that of many others, a true leader works collaboratively and values the opinions and ideas of his/her subordinates. To quote General Eric K. Shinseki: "You must love those you lead before you can be an effective leader. You can certainly command without that sense of commitment, but you cannot lead without it. And without leadership, command is a hollow experience, a vacuum often filled with mistrust and arrogance." This was the problem with Ackerman's "leadership"---she never really got her troops on board. While I never particularly liked her or thought she did an effective job, I do believe she did/does care about the children she serves (at least some of them). Her main mistake was her imperious and arrogant attitude and actions. Ackerman claimed to not be sorry that she is not a politician, but some basic human relationship skills are needed to run a school district. Ackerman never seemed to be able to connect with teachers--sometimes a seemingly simple thing can leave an irrevocable bad impression. This is how 'the queen' lost the teachers at my school early on in her tenure: A lovely and understandable photo-op--Ackerman was going to read to the kindergarten and pre-k classes. First mistake, she arrived with a large retinue--one member's major function seemed to be to hold her purse and hand her her reading glasses. Imperiousness does not play well in Philly (as many sports stars and politicians can attest). Her biggest mistake, though, was to leave the school with the two 'goody baskets' of books and stuffed animals that publishers had donated for the reading. The kindergarten teachers were appalled--they had thought they could have the books for their classrooms--and they never forgot that the queen walked out of a North Philly high-poverty school with two baskets of books that students could have used. Now, maybe Ackerman donated those books to some place that needed them--but the problem is she did not communicate, and so left an indelible impression of haughtiness, greed, and disconnection with schools. Teachers have long memories, and they take a slight of their school and kids quite hard. Ackerman also seemed to be quite bad at communication in general: she evinced a "my way or the highway" tone that many found hard to swallow. No one faulted the fact that she wanted schools improved, but many of her initiatives (scripted curricula) seemed to imply that teacher expertise and commitment were non-existent. Over and over again, Ackerman's apparent inability to empathize with her stakeholders tripped her up. Who can ever forget her spectacularly inadequate response to the abuse of Asian students at South Philly High? She came across as nasty and out-of-touch in that instance and many others. When people wanted to speak their minds or challenge her ideas--even in a collegial manner--she was intemperate and rude: she famously snapped at both a young high-school student at an SRC meeting and at TFA member at a UPENN meeting. All these incidents piled upon each other until many in the Philly education trenches thought she was way too removed from real education life (she has been out of the classroom since 1980) and issues to be of any use in solving Philadelphia's problems. As PFT leader Jerry Jordan stated today, we need a leader who wants to collaborate and work with ALL constituents--parents, students, teachers, administration, and politicians are all important to the smooth running of the district. I think we can all hope that our next leader has learned something from our last one: If we all want what is best for our students and schools, we need to come together and work collaboratively in a collegial manner on ideas and initiatives to benefit our students.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The (almost) Unbearable Sadness of Teaching

The texts started coming in early on a Saturday morning: "Did you read...?", "Isn't that the name of....?", "Wasn't he in Mrs.________'s class?" And, sadly, the answers were, yes, yes, and yes---the 20-year-old man who was being sought for an awful crime had once been a student at our school. This is the kind of outcome that none of us wants for our students, but it is one we sometimes live with nonetheless. The alleged criminal had last been a student at our school in sixth grade--his fifth grade teacher remembers a quiet, sweet-faced boy who she cannot quite connect with the crime he is accused of committing. She said she felt like she had been 'punched in the gut' when she heard the news--unfortunately, I knew what she meant--I had felt similarly short-of-breath and deeply sad when one of my former students was arrested last year. My grade partner said about the same situation that 'it hurt her heart', and I knew the feeling: many, many times teachers' hearts and spirits are battered by the things that happen to their students. I think it is one of the great, silent burdens of teaching: as uplifting as it can be on many days, you always seem to be waiting to have your heart broken--and you will. We are with our students many hours per day. We know their parents, siblings, grandparents, their struggles and triumphs, their favorite foods, what they are allergic to, what they worry about, and what they are afraid of, proud of, and wish deeply for. In many ways we are a particular kind of family. Like family, we see each other at our best and worst and somehow find something to like about each other every day. We drive each other crazy, make each other laugh, and stand up for each other, and when one of our own comes to a bad end our heart is broken a little. This is one of the costs of teaching, and most of us bear it, but sometimes the sad things come a little too close together, and we find ourselves thinking the cost is too high. Fortunately, those feelings are usually fleeting, and our students can also give us the will and strength to keep coming back every day. For most of us, our students live in our hearts and minds long after they leave our classrooms: we hope for them, believe in them, and want the best for them. When the worst happens instead we always wonder what--if anything--could have made things end differently. Too often, the answer is something that we could not control--and that is sometimes very hard to live with.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Tragedy Of Cheating Scandals

One of the lovely legacies that the pressure inherent in the high-stakes testing that NCLB requires has left us is the cheating scandal. There have been several cheating scandals and allegations in the last several years-- Atlanta and Washington, DC are the most well covered. Well, now our own Philadelphia Public School District has its own (alleged) scandal: The principal at Roosevelt Middle School has been accused of altering tests and giving out answers to 'help' her students make AYP. This saddens me, but if it is true, is not all that suprising.
Let me say that I believe the No Child Left Behind Law to be essentially unjust and the Adequate Yearly Progress goal to be unfair. However, I do not think cheating is ever justified. First of all, depending on how the cheating takes place, students are made complicit in an illegal act, and no educator should ever do that. Secondly, even if students do not know they are cheating (for example, their answers are changed after they hand in the test), they are given inaccurate results and a false idea of their achievement. Thirdly, it does not really help anyone, or address the inequity of many standardized tests or of our present system. And, last, but certainly not least--IT IS JUST FLAT-OUT WRONG.

Having said all of that, I can also say that I can truly understand and even empathize slightly with the thinking that makes such cheating scandals possible. NCLB and AYP put a huge amount of pressure on school districts to 'improve achievement' (notice it does not say improve learning). Despite all this emphasis on improving test scores and achievement, the monetary and social supports needed to help all children learn are not forthcoming. In fact, stating that anything outside the classroom impacts learning (when we all know it does) has become a copout--thereby enabling 'reformers' and corporate 'do-gooders' to put all the blame for low achievement on the people inside the schools--primarily teachers and principals. Some people, when they see the inequities of the system, when they are bullied and criticized at every turn, when their very livelihood and the calling they have poured their heart and soul into is threatened, will resort to a 'by any means necessary' mentality to raise test scores. None of these reasons justify cheating, they just sadly explain it.

The atmosphere at many schools around testing can easily become paranoid and poisonous. Principals are harangued by regional chairpeople and superintendents, and --in turn--return to their schools to pressure teachers and students. We all want to do our best every day to help our students learn, but most of us agree that test pressure and teaching to the test are not conducive to true learning. Some sort of standardized evaluation is needed, but what is the best and fairest way to do this? That is a discussion for another day, but I think that we can all see that this retaliatory and adversarial system that seems to lead almost inexorably to some cheating is not good for our students or our educational system.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

When Is A Public Meeting NOT A Public Meeting?

The sign at the back of the auditorium in which the SRC meets says "legal capacity 240". According to several sources inside the auditorium at about 3:45 PM today, there were 160 people in the room. That is apparently when the (at first unnamed) Fire Marshal (later the name Bill Bankhead was given out by a School District Employee) decided the room was "over capacity" and closed the SRC Meeting to any more members of the public. The School District set up a video feed and seating area in a downstairs lobby--but a viewing area IS NOT participatory, it is passive. Here is an account of what happened when the public, including TAG members, parents, students, teachers and other members of the public tried to attend the meeting:
*When I entered the 440 building at about 3:45, the polite and professional school police officer at the entrance told me the meeting was full, but I could sit in the viewing area. I said I was going to try to go up, he said "good luck" (not unpleasantly).
*When I got upstairs to the hallway leading to the auditorium, about 20 or so people were waiting there. I talked to fellow TAG (Teacher Action Group) members, and asked the school police officer guarding the door from the public if I could go in. He said the fire marshal had declared the meeting over capacity. (I have this officer's name, but will not print it for fear he will lose his job).
*I pointed out that there were clearly empty seats visible on the video feed. The officer told me "do not question me again" and to go sit down.
*I asked the officer for the name of the fire marshal, was it a city fire marshal, a school district fire marshal, what was his/her name? He said he did not know, but that the school district had fire marshals. I again asked for the name.
*During this time, students, parents, community members and other members of the PUBLIC were trying to gain access to a PUBLIC meeting and were being turned away. The officer was professional and somewhat polite, but clearly getting frustrated.
*When questioned again by me and several other people, the officer again said he did not know the name of the fire marshal, but the Lieutenant (nameless) did. He refused a request to call said Lieutenant so we could find out which PUBLIC official had closed a PUBLIC meeting.
*At that point (about 4:15PM), more and more people were arriving, and it was becoming clear that the people gathered were NOT going to leave. The next person who asked the officer why the meeting was closed was told "My boss told me not to let anyone in." The fire marshal/over capacity story had been abandoned completely.
*A School District official came out (everyone I saw was very careful to have their picture ID turned AWAY from the public) and said they might have room for 20 people in a few minutes. The officer said he would pick the 20 people who had been there the longest, and tried to rationally choose people to enter. He was a little rude to some young students (who had not said anything disrespectful that I heard), and several TAG members allowed students to go into the meeting in their stead.
*At 4:30, some us were finally admitted to the meeting. We were instructed to take empty seats and NOT stand in the back. (Although there were many District Officials standing in the back).
*I believe this instruction was given to make sure we could not all stand together for our protest.
NEXT UP: Inside the SRC Meeting:
OK--We were in the public meeting. I sat next to a nice woman who lent me her printed agenda with the speakers listed. We were there to listen to testimony and carry out a respectful democratic action (holding up signs demanding transparency and putting duct tape over our mouths to symbolize our voicelessness).
*I was quite moved by some of the testimony, and perplexed by others.
* Some students from Martin Luther King High School (scheduled to be Renaissanced) spoke movingly about their attachment to their school and teachers/counselors, and their strong feeling that they should not be considered failures, and their hope that their school would not lose the programs they valued.
*Onika Richardson, a well-spoken student from Audenried who squared off against Ackerman last week spoke again, and said she had brought data to prove that the District's stated data about her school was inaccurate. She offered the data to the SRC--they took it. She also mentioned that she and her fellow students also felt disrespected in meetings with District officials because said officials often "played on their phones and texted" during the meetings. Behavior, by the way, which a teacher or principal would not tolerate in class.
*Next was the brave Mary Delsavio who brought a letter from a frustrated and burned out (yet dedicated) Promise Academy teacher delineating the many problems with the Promise Academy model. Now, at the SRC meetings, each registered speaker is announced as he/she approaches the podium and the names are on the printed agenda--however, when it became clear that Ms. Delsavio was reading a critical letter, a member interrupted her to ask her name AGAIN (what, he was not listening?). She continued to read a very lovely and well-constructed letter about the constraints of the scripted curricula and other features of the "promise" model. The letter was long, but the audience was rapt and then Archie imperiously interjected "you will need to sum up, there are other speakers." Many speakers then called out "We'll wait.", but Archie insisted on the summing up--which Mary then did. She left the podium only to be called back by the very people who had wanted her to hurry---they very pointedly said "What is your name again?" Now, her name had been announced TWICE, they had a printed agenda in front of them, but they asked her name AGAIN. There was a palpable and uncomfortable feeling of intimidation in the air. She said her name, they said "You are here as what?" (I guess meaning a community member, parent , teacher, etc...), and then asked her what her position was (teacher mentor), and pressed rather hard to know WHO wrote the letter (she refused to say, citing fear of "pushback"-- I wonder why). They then said, "Can we at least know what school, so we can investigate?" (Perhaps meaning intimidate teachers and pit them against each other.) Mary said she would not answer and said that she knew as a mentor that the letter could have been written by many of her teachers.
*It was during some of these testimonies that TAG members stood (silently) with duct tape on our mouths and signs demanding transparency and voice.
*Up next was Desiree Whitfield, a parent of a kindergartner from Greenfield who has shown up to defend Ackerman a couple of times lately. Which, I will say, is her right as an American. However, she read an ill-informed and inaccurate screed against Hope Moffet--making it sound (wrongly) as if Moffet had personally set up the walk-out at Audenried and forced the students to the rally.
*Lisa Haver spoke eloquently abouth the need for community involvement and voice and questioned why the SRC (as the old School Board did) could not have at least every other meeting at night in a neighborhood school (where parking and access are not limited). Good question--no answer forthcoming.
*A bus company owner (Mr. Wilson) spoke about the need for more transparent bidding procedures for contracters.
*Teacher Sharon Newman spoke passionately in defense of young, enthusiastic teachers like Hope Moffet, and appealed to the SRC to take all the facts into consideration.

At this point (about 5:15 PM) an SRC member noted that they had been "working since 8:30" (though the meeting did not start until 2:00) and needed a 15-minute break. Fair enough, most teachers (and I daresay parents) had been working since 7:30, so we all needed a break. At that point, I left to go home and continue my workday as a teacher (grading, e-mailing, setting up meetings, etc..), and the SRC meeting went on.... All in all, an interesting experience, but I did get a feeling that, at points, the SRC was just going through the motions of hearing the community.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Proud To Be A Philadelphia Teacher

Last Friday, I had the pleasure and honor of attending the Teacher Action Group Rally for Public Education in front of our (yes, our) administration building at 440 North Broad Street. When my colleagues and I arrived at a little before 4:00 PM, School District Police stood on the top step of the building looking imposing. Of course, they need not have worried, the rally that followed was passionate and spirited but respectful. I believe it showed the best of Philadelphia: an ethnic, racial, and class mix of community members, students, parents, and teachers all coming together to support a crucial part of our city--public education. The young leaders of the Teacher Action Group (TAG) spoke about our community cause (having a true voice in what happens to OUR schools) and read a supportive statement from Jerry Jordan, the president of the PFT. Other teachers and community members spoke eloquently about the impact and meaning of a true public education--the PUBLIC must be involved. After a few speeches, a young man who happens to be a junior at Audenried High School (slated for takeover by a charter company with no community input) spoke. Maurice Johnson, an articulate, earnest young man that any parent or teacher would be proud to call their own, spoke quite movingly about what his school meant to him. He rightly pointed out that his school--about to be given away lock, stock, and 55 million dollar barrel to Kenny Gamble's charter company--was NOT a failure, had not even been given a chance to prove it yet to prove what they know. The juniors in the new Audenried are the first class in that school--and as such have not yet taken the PSSAs which are given in March. (Ironically, although there is no data to prove the new Audenried a failure, there is plenty of data to question the effectiveness of Gamble's Universal Company). Maurice pointed out--rightly from a student's point-of-view--that when kids hear Arlene Ackerman call their school a failure, they hear themselves being called failures. Now this may not be what the "award-winning" Dr. Ackerman intends when she throws the word failure around so blithely, but it is what children hear. Her bullying, top-down, and ham-handed approach to school reform (many can agree we need school improvement) leaves the educational community feeling bullied and bruised. How much more effective could these "reforms" be if students, teachers, and community members without million dollar federal grants were asked what THEY need, what THEY want. Maurice and his classmates (as well as the rest of us) would like to find out. The most barn-burning, rabble-rousing (and I mean that in the best democratic sense) speech of the day came from firebrand retired principal Frank Murphy. Murphy pointed out in a fervent speech that a great leader has many collaborative and communication skills that our current leader seems to lack. If we ever got to choose someone to run our school, Frank would be my candidate. He knows what it is to be a true collaborative educator, not just a "boss". We wound down at about 5:00 PM, happy that-even if we had not been heard by the "bosses", we had stated our piece. Even as we stood in the bitter high winds last Friday, I saw colleagues, students, and community members both familiar and unknown to me whose dedication to children, and schools, and communities made me proud to be a part of this great city where American freedom was born and nurtured.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Good Things (and they DO exist)

I read a very dispiriting comment in The Philadelphia Public School Notebook
today. It was from a teacher (I have no idea how new or experienced) who feels completely worn out, undervalued, and disrespected at her job in a Philadelphia public school. It made me quite sad for several reasons: It brings home the point that the teaching profession is under fire like never before, it makes me wonder if we can attract and keep good teachers to this very challenging and rewarding profession, and it forces me to consider if teachers themselves (me included) have contributed to to the negative narrative by talking too much about the sometimes exhausting and frustrating aspects of our jobs. There is no doubt that we in Philadelphia (as well as many other areas of the country) have epic challenges before us, and there are times when we wonder why we do what we do and how much longer we will be able to do it. However, there are many wonderful and rewarding things about teaching--not the least of which is the connections we are able to make with students. If you are lucky enough to work in a good school--and by good I do not mean the best test scores, the richest neighborhood, or the newest building--I mean a place with a sense of purpose and community--you can play a meaningful role in the lives of many children. Of course, we are not as important as parents in a child's life, but we do spend a great deal of time with them. Although it is the big things that make news, it is the little things that make our job worth it every day. So, in no particular order, I am listing some things that have made me smile lately (school things):

*The fact that my corrective reading students (as not-fun as it can be) vie for their turn to read out loud.

*A student stopping by my room at the end of the day to apologize (unasked) for earlier bad behavior in class.

*A girl excitedly telling me between classes that she was asked to interview at one of her chosen high schools.

*A student new to our school and resistant to my small group reading class opening up during a writing assignment about one of his favorite places to go.

*Our former students (now in high school) who come back to see us several times a year just to say hello and touch base.

*Colleagues who help me, build me up, let me blow off steam, and make me laugh every day.

*Second graders who like to say hi to me and think it is a big deal to know the 7th and 8th grade teacher (because I teach their sibs).

*Routinely having children (yes, kids raised in this day and age) who open doors for us, offer to carry our bags and boxes, and are otherwise helpful.

*Having a student smile widely and say "Really?!", when I tell him he can take home the book he was reading from my classroom library.

*The fact that, no matter what the district and the reform "experts" throw at us, I truly believe we are making a positive difference in the lives of children every day.

I am not really a Pollyanna or cheerleader, but I believe in what we do. My school is just a regular Philadelphia public school (not magnet), our kids and staff are not perfect, but there is goodness and curiosity in them, and we are a community. Dozens of schools like this exist all over this city. We need to try to think of the good things that we experience every day, and even though we are tired and put upon, try to reach out to colleagues who are losing heart.